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Gary Kildall
(1942-1994)
Creator of the CP/M Operating System

While it was Microsoft created an empire and made billions of dollars from developing and selling the operating system software that run virtually all the PC's in the World, In the days before the IBM PC, a small company called Digital Research Incorporated, founded by Gary Kildall the creator of an operating system called Control Program for Microcomputers or CP/M was it was widely known as.  Back before self contained PC's Mainframes and minicomputers each had their own operating systems supplied by the companies that made the computers.  When PC's infiltrated offices and homes, most of the manufactures of what was then the world's smallest computers were small companies themselves and didn't have the resources to have inhouse programming departments to create operating systems.  Third party companies popped up to create operating systems and all kinds of other software. 

Gary Kildall and Digital Research had the opportunity to get CP/M on the IBM PC and make Billions from it.  When the suits from IBM came to talk to Kildall buying CP/M, they came with a non-disclosure agreement before telling Killdall and his wife why they there.  His wife sent away the men from Big Blue, Microsoft became provider of the operating system for the IBM PC and every clone that came out on the market.  After unintentionally ceding the operating system fortune to Microsoft, Digital Research updated CP/M into a version that runs on IBM PC's and clones called CP/M-86, which didn't catch on with computer buyers or program developers. Digital Research released a Graphical User Interface called Graphical Environment Manager or GEM which sat on top of CP/M similar to how the early versions of Windows sat on top of DOS.  GEM ran on computers Intel 8088 and Motorola 68000 processors.  Atari even shipped GEM with the ST model computer.  GEM was dealt an early end when Apple Computer sued Digital Research.  Digital Research then put out a clone of MS-DOS called DR-DOS.  Microsoft responded by putting out a new version of MS-DOS within a few months of each release of DR-DOS.

The end of Digital Research came when Novell bought the company in 1991.  The executives at Novell believed that having DR-DOS would help better position Netware against Microsoft.  On July of 1994 Kildall mysteriously collapsed in a restaurant in Seattle, passing away three days later.  Cause of death is officially listed as blunt force trauma to the head, but some speculators still have doubts about how Gary Kildall met his demise.

Bob Metcalfe
Co-Inventor of Ethernet
Founder of 3Com

Unknown known to everyday computer users, and not commonly known even to those who make their living in the technology industry that the standard networking technology used today has it's roots in the earliest days of personal computing.  Today's computer networks are built on Ethernet which was invented about 35 years ago.  Back in 1973 At the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center Bob Metcalfe and David Boggs developed Ethernet. 

In 1979 Metcalfe left Xerox PARC and founded 3Com and became one of the first to commercialize on computer networking.  Ethernet would not became the standard which the world uses to connect its computers with yet.  3Com had to compete against IBM's Token Ring.  Government offices and banks chose Token Ring simply because they trusted IBM a lot more than they trusted an upstart company like 3Com. 

Most smaller corporations took a chance on 3Com and wired up Ethernet networks.  After a little more development work at 3Com data throughput rates on Ethernet reached ten megabits per second, which was two and a half times that token ring offered which topped out at four megabits per second.  IBM responded with refinements to Token ring which brought token ring up to 16Mbps.  3Com brought the speed of Ethernet up to 100 Mbps and blew away what IBM had to offer.  Eventually 3Com licensed Ethernet technology to other companies so that they could make their own Ethernet equipment.  This brought down the cost of Ethernet technology. 

Kevin Mitnick
Notorious Hacker
Apprehension brought attention to the need for Internet Security

In the early 1995 when Internet service started to become available to ordinary Joes, very few people were aware of the risks associated with going online.  That changed when Kevin Mitnick was apprehended on February, 15, 1995.

Mitnick's career in hacking started when he was twelve years old, when he used a simple paper hole punch to make his own punch cards to get free rides on the bus.  He later went on to Phone Phreaking popular hack in the late 1970's that allowed free long distance calls by playing audio tones at certain frequencies that sent commands to telephone switching equipment

Mitnick moved into hacking computer networks in 1979 when he first hacked into the network at Digital Equipment Corporation.  At one point Mitnick used a TRS-80 at a Radio Shack store for his hacking activities.  Mitnick went on to hack into the networks at IBM, Motorola, NEC, Nokia, Sun Microsystems and Siemens.  It is rumored that Mitnick also hacked into systems at SCO, PacBell, the FBI, The Pentagon, Novell, the California DMV, USC, and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Mitnick spent almost four years in prison before facing trial.  The laws at that time in which Mitnick was charged under were a lot weaker than they are now and was sentenced to a further four years in prison.  Kevin Mitnick was released on January, 21, 2000.  After a further three years on probation where Mitnick was prohibited from using computers or the Internet he started his own Internet security consulting company.

John Lech Johansen AKA DVD JonJon Lech Johansen
AKA DVD Jon
Broke DVD Encryption and brought fair use into the DVD age

In the late 1990ís as DVDís with their superior picture sound and picture quality became the reason that people were sending their VHS collections to landfills, the movie studios thought that the content scrambling system encoded on DVDís would prevent piracy. In October of 1999 a program called DeCSS was released that allowed ripping of DVDís on to peoplesí computers. The author of DeCSS was Jon Lech Johansen, a teenager from Norway. Johansen had cracked the encryption on DVDís for a perfectly legitimate reason, he wanted to play his DVDís on his PC running Linux.

After complaints from the American movie studios Johansen was prosecuted for creating a program that circumvents the copy protection on DVDís which would enable piracy. The trial began in December of 2002, and an acquittal soon followed. An appeal was launched and Johansen now affectionately known as DVD Jon would be retried. The second trial started in December of 2003 and on December 22nd DVD Jon was acquitted a second time based on the facts that DVD Jon used his own DVDís to figure out how Content Scrambling System and making a back up copy falls under fair use provision in Norwayís copyright law. In January of 2004 it was announced that no further appeals would be pursued and all charged were dropped.

Since then DVD Jon has been active in the development of technologies to allow people to get around Digital Rights Management technologies so that people can use content such as music and video and use it on any device. Johansenís latest project is called doubletwist which is a program to remove digital rights management from songs bought from online music stores for use with any portable music player. So a song that is only available from iTunes can be played with any with a Zune or any other player.

 

John Lech Johansen AKA DVD JonKarlheinz Brandenberg
Inventor of MP3

How people enjoy music today wouldn't be anything like it is today without the contribution of Karlheinz Brandenberg.  It was in the early 1990's that Brandenberg invented MPEG Audio Layer 3 encoding or better known as MP3.  When he was a researcher at the Frauenhofer Institute where him and a research team developed the compression algorithm for MP3.  The very first song encoded as an MP3 was "Tom's Diner" by Susanne Vega from the album Solitude Standing.  He picked the song because of the quiet passages in the song would easily reveal any faults in the algorithm.

MP3 wasn't noticed much at first in the early 1990's because there was very little need to compress audio on computers at the time.  In 1996 Brandenberg recieved a patent from the United States Patent Office.  After demonstrating MP3 shortly after receiving the patent, interest in MP3 took off when Internet service became a ubiquitous presence in homes and workplaces around the world.  At first songs in MP3 format were distributed though underground FTP and web sites which were quickly shut down by order of the recording companies.  Many online music stores have since been set up using audio compression technology by Microsoft, Apple and other companies.  None of which would have come into existence without MP3 and it's inventer, Karlheinz Brandenberg.

John Lech Johansen AKA DVD JonShawn Fanning
Inventor of Napster

When MP3 first became popular in the late 1990's finding songs as MP3 files was difficult at first.  Songs were available from underground web sites that were forced offline quickly by threat of lawsuit from the recording industry.  Shawn Fanning decided that to help make MP3's easier to find he created a search engine for MP3 files held on peoples' computers and to download directly from each other.  Initially Napster was a closed network for Fanning's close friends at Northeastern University where he was a student.  Eventually Napster was made public and it caught the attention big music and that's when the lawsuits came flying.  After close to two years of court room action Napster was shut down and was sold to Roxio which after a year or so Napster became a legitimate online music store.

Selling music online would have never have happened without the original Napster.  The recording industry was hell bent on keeping people buying CD's.  After the Napster genie was let out of the bottle there was no it was going back in.  Even before the end came to the original free Napster there were many other peer to peer networks sprouting up.  Although other peer to peer networks have gotten shut down many more come along to take it's place.  While peer to peer networks allow people to get music without paying the musicians and songwriters as they deserve, but does help curb the obscene profiteering by the recording companies.

 

 

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